The greater change
B.D. Alexander talks with members of the community about gaining awareness and sharing their own stories or stories about people they know who have been incarcerated. (Photo: Stephanie Parshall/For The Enquirer)
In the binder of Battle Creek resident B.D. Alexander, the years of incarceration are almost incalculable.
Alexander founded a company called O.T.I.S. Vision Group, or OVG. It's an urban outreach consulting firm seeking to connect with incarcerated citizens and their families. Each month, Alexander spends time communicating with as many as 30 inmates in an effort to provide encouragement or to lend an ear to stories that otherwise would not be heard.
The end goal, he says, is to ready outgoing felons to return home – and, ultimately, to the workforce.
"Many people get out of jail looking for opportunities but are not always prepared for the opportunity when it comes," he said. "It’s essential to not only work with the individual but their loved ones to build up that support system to see and make sure they’re getting into a proper environment, that their lifestyle is conducive for that, that they have contact with their children.
"If you can find a reason they want to have a job, it becomes an easier way to help an individual."
Education behind bars can lead to better outcomes on the outside. That's at least how it's worked for Samuel Hunter and others. Hunter, who had been a leader of a gang and his religious group, found solace in the curriculum of the Chance for Life program. He still has the thick binder that details concepts like job skills and conflict resolution as well as some more traditional educational material.
"I wanted to lead, but there was no one leading in a way to help people get out of what they were doing, man," he said. "If I’ve gotta spend the rest of my life in here, then I’ma spend it for helping people do better than I’m doing."